Game Society: video games in contemporary art and visual culture

Gaming Society is an exhibition that explores how the grammar and aesthetics of video games have influenced contemporary art and visual culture and permeated our society and everyday life in the five decades since the release of the first video game. Video games include designing interfaces for visual and auditory stimulation, storytelling that captures the imagination, immersive experiences, and social interaction, making them the most relevant form of media today. Gaming Society looks at the process of powerful synchronization between society and video games that has been accelerated by the pandemic. He explores the context in which society becomes virtual spaces and the reality of these spaces becomes part of everyday life, exploring what gaming experiences can convey and share with us. The exhibition features 9 video games and over 30 works by contemporary artists influenced by the grammar and aesthetics of video games. Among the games on display are Korean video games and selected rentals from the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which have acquired games since the early 2010s.

Reading is imagining the world, watching a movie is observing that world, and playing video games is living in that world; imagination and realism have become a common experience and visual grammar in modern society. Playing a game is analogous to the contemplation and appreciation of contemporary art in the sense that it requires active participation in the work of art during which the viewer can experience a moment of art. However, game worlds are still imperfect. There is a distinct lack of diversity in games where virtual worlds are filled with hyperbolically perfect bodies and women, the elderly, frail or disabled are either not represented or appear as unplayable characters. Just like in real life, finding a way to access games and their digital environments can be difficult for them. By contextualizing the digital spaces and games in the exhibition, MMCA, as a space of integration, proposes to re-imagine our society where gamification has become part of everyday life, exploring the gaps and empty spaces in games. After all, presenting games in a museum is directly related to the question of museum accessibility. Playing a video game is no different from watching an art exhibition in that the video game tutorials are like an exhibition guide with marked routes, exits, and entrances; gathering experience and skill by playing the game is like growing fluency and appreciation of the arts by visiting exhibitions and museums.

All video games in this exhibition are available to play. Viewers can play them using a game access controller designed and developed by the Korea National Rehabilitation Center Assistive Technology Open Platform, together with Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller devices. As video game critic C. Thi Nguyen has noted, games are “an artificial form of action.” As such, the exhibition offers viewers ways to gain a fresh perspective on the issues that arise when they gamify their daily lives by providing versatile and expansive controllers. In a similar spirit of inclusivity and accessibility, the exhibition also presents online projects organized with PACK.

For MMCA, this exhibition is a celebration of what video games and art museums share their experiences. The exhibition is also an active endeavor to share a common act of access and reflection on video games and the art museum, observing the roles and spheres of the individual and the public. In both video games and art, it is the application of contemporary knowledge and social experience and the speculations that it generates that give us the opportunity to re-evaluate the world we live in. Intention in that sense Gaming Society is to provide viewers with an opportunity to reflect and challenge the efforts and attention required to make public spaces and gaming more inclusive, to reframe where we may want to redefine our common goals. Through games as an artistic medium with cross-generational appeal, the exhibition aims to provide each person with a full sensory range in a unique way that best serves each person’s artistic experience and values.